|Some Calgary doctors and parents were on hand at the Parkdale Community centre in NW Calgary, Alberta on June 25,2012, asking the Catholic trustees to open doors to HPV vaccine. From L to R are Dr. Susan Bornemisza, family practitioner, Juliet Guichon, a legal scholar and assistant professor of community health sciences at U of C, and Dr. Ian Mitchell, a professor of paediatrics and a bioethicist at the U of C. (QMI Agency/STUART DRYDEN)
CALGARY - Health activists say they’re preparing to sue the city’s Catholic school board for its adamant refusal to allow HPV vaccinations on their property.
HPV Calgary’s Dr. Ian Mitchell said the board’s failure to include the issue at its Wednesday board meeting shows there’s no alternative but to seek legal action on what he calls a life-and-death matter.
“It was the previous board that took this action to ban it and in the past two years this board has never discussed it,” Mitchell said, adding a court showdown would also force a debate with the board.
“We haven’t heard any reasonable argument of why no vaccinations.”
The board said it takes much of its direction on the issue from Alberta’s Roman Catholic bishops who view use of the vaccine -- which prevents sexually-borne cervical cancer -- as an invitation for teen girls to become promiscuous.
Mitchell said there’s never been a link between sexual behaviour and the vaccine and adds that stance isn’t even one held by the Vatican or Canadian bishops as a whole.
“It seems ridiculous ... it’s not even Catholic theology,” he said.
School vaccinations, Mitchell said, are a far more effective way to administer since busy or low-income families without vehicles find it harder to arrange outside schools.
Mitchell said his group will raise funds for the legal action, but hopes the board will revisit the issue rather than spend taxpayers’ money on the fight.
But board chairwoman Mary Martin said there’ll be no change in its position.
“There’s nothing now that would change its course,” she said.
While Edmonton’s Catholic schools allow the vaccine, Martin said the Calgary board is bound to take direction from Alberta bishops.
“There’s no such thing as a health class taught without the background of our faith,” she said.
But Martin also said the board has worked with Alberta Health Services to enable any family to receive the vaccine at clinics.
“We’ve taken additional steps of ensuring we’ll get them there,” she said.
“We’re leaving it squarely in the hands of parents.”
HVP Calgary says the board is abdicating its democratic responsibility by taking direction from bishops.
But Martin said their students’ parents expect just that.